Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Not Easy Eating Greens

Having grown up by and large on canned vegetables, greens of any kind were not something I learned to appreciate.  My mom seemed to have a love of canned spinach, but I just couldn't develop an appreciation for something that was limp, olive green, and salty.

Somewhere along the line, and I don't recall when, I got reintroduced to proper greens.  Then again, now that I think about it, it might have even started as spinach in a focaccia panino sandwich.  I remember being really shocked at the difference and impressed at the flavor and texture difference.  I've been a big fan of fresh spinach ever since.  Aside from steaming it, I often enjoy it raw in salads or sandwiches, and will often use it in place of where I would otherwise use lettuce.

Another recent addition was a green that gets proverbially tossed around a lot with its association to Southern Cooking or soul food.  That of course would be Collard Greens.  These large flat slightly bitter leaves cook up nicely in a variety of ways.  My favorite thus far is to strip the leaf from its stalk and center vein, and then roll up the strips and slice them into thin strips.  I then toss a minced clove or two of garlic into a hot pan with about a tablespoon or so of olive oil and let it sizzle for a few moments.  Then I toss in the big pile of greens and stir and toss regularly until the strips turn a bright green and just begin to wilt.   I season with a little salt and pepper, and it is also very common to add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.  I often use collard greens to otherwise dress up a dinner of boxed beans and rice or jambalaya.  In addition to tasting good, they are high in Vitamin C, folate, and soluble fiber.  Good stuffs!

I'm still learning to appreciate others.  Kale and I still haven't come to any agreements, but I truly think it comes down to texture.  These firm and tart leaves have a lot of cooking possibilities, but I haven't yet found an appreciation.  I hear really good things about mustard greens and even greens from things like radishes and other root vegetables.  I'll be investigating others over time.

Regardless, I've come a long way from canned, and I really enjoy the opportunities to rediscover fresh versions of things I only experienced preserved in such a way that it would feed the roaches at the end of the world.  :-P

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

I had the pleasure of sharing a favorite dinner recipe with my sweeties this weekend.  I learned to make a version of Beef Stroganoff over 10 years ago.  It is generally a very simple and comforting dish, and since I cheat a little, it's that much easier.

The recipe has evolved a little bit since I've learned to make it.  Traditionally in the UK and American incarnation, it is basically beef, wine, onions, mushrooms, made into a gravy mixed with sour cream, and served over rice or noodles.  My cheat is that instead of making the roux and gravy, I use Cream of Mushroom soup.  When I was seeing someone who was allergic to mushrooms, I traded it for Cream of Potato soup, and it turned out just as good.  After realizing I really enjoyed the potato in with it, I decided later to use both soups.

I start by slicing up Top Round, or Bottom Round, or another similar cut of meat into bite-sized pieces.  I then dice up a medium onion.  With about 2 tablespoons of butter heating up in the bottom of a dutch oven, I begin browning the meat.  As it begins to release its juices and brown, I toss in the onion  and chopped mushrooms and stir regularly until the onion is translucent.  Then I deglaze with about a cup of white wine (you can use red if you prefer, but it will turn the final sauce pink!).  Then I pour in a can of condensed Cream of Mushroom soup, and a can of condensed Cream of Potato soup and whisk it together and lower the heat to a simmer.

While it's simmering, I get the egg noodles boiling and then drained.

Once the sauce is heated through and thickened up, I take it off the heat and whisk in a pint of sour cream, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Then I plate up some noodles, and pour a ladle or two of sauce over the noodles, and that's it!

I have also been known to make it with plain white rice, and I imagine it would be good with brown rice as well.

Simple ingredients, but really good food.

If you want to make it more authentic, instead of using the condensed soups, take out the meat after it browns, make a flour roux with the fat and juices from the meat, let it toast up a little bit,  and then add the wine.  Then add milk to round out the gravy and season with salt and pepper.